By Rosemary Taylor, Arrowsmith Naturalists
Don’t miss out on the Brant Wildlife Festival – one of this area’s main attractions heralding the arrival of spring. So much to see and do, even if you’ve not yet made the acquaintance of the chatty little black and white goose for which the festival is named.
Like many other migrants, their arrival is exquisitely timed to coincide with the burst of activity during the herring run, when the sea turns a magnificent aquamarine, signaling activity up and down the coast. As a local landlubber, and a fairly new Islander, it is a thrill to watch the flight of these birds as they gather on the shoreline, which is an important stop on their long journey from wintering in Mexico to their breeding grounds in Alaska and northern Canada. They need rest and time to feed and fatten up, so admire them from a distance, while watching the rest of the spectacle where sea lions abound, barking and rafting up with their flippers in the air. Thousands of gulls gather on rocky shorelines, eagles swoop down from nearby trees, and one can here the clanking of fishing boats winding in their nets full of silvery herring. There are many local events planned during this time to share knowledge and enjoyment of this annual bonanza, so check them out and take part in as many as possible. Walk along the beach at low tide, and see the herring roe that’s washed ashore, benefitting myriad marine life living along the tideline and buried in the seaweed. There is so much to see and do – it will all be over very shortly and won’t happen again till next year!
Turn to face inland while walking the shoreline trails. As the Brant arrive, snowdrops are blooming in their masses, interspersed with crocus. Bushes and trees begin to get that greenish look as new leaves bud out. Hazel and alder catkins hang from the trees, and soon the big leaf maple will join them. Robins frequent any grassy patch in great numbers. Look up in the air – perhaps a small skein of Trumpeter swans will be flying overhead as they too head north after wintering here on the rivers and in the fields. That is always a breathtaking sight. Notice the change in cloud formations as the weather (hopefully) improves. Pass on your enthusiasm to those you meet along the trail – share information about what is happening and where in the natural world – it will probably be reciprocated. There are many local sources announcing events for all ages, so get involved and become a part of this welcome to spring, or gather up friends and family when time permits. But whatever you do, don’t let this free and ongoing real-time nature documentary pass you by!